The Grit and The Fierce Urgency of Now

As I begin my year of service as your president, I am motivated by the knowledge that thousands of geography educators have spent much of the last year overcoming the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have not quit. They have not given up. Instead, teachers at all levels have devoted evenings and weekends figuring out how to navigate the scary world of online education and social distancing in brick-and-mortar classrooms. Many educators have related to me how they have harnessed urgency to conquer fear. Procrastination is not an option, they have said. Students cannot wait. In 1967, when speaking at Riverside Church in New York City about the need to end the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King, Jr. called this situation, this feeling, the “fierce urgency of now” (King, 1967).

Overcoming the obstacles that might prevent the implementation of new creative approaches requires an important non-cognitive trait: grit. The academic concept of grit is defined as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Like my predecessor, I believe that the NCGE community is a gritty group.

For proof, look no further than the council’s programming for the year ahead. The Board of Directors, in consultation with a variety of professionals, has developed a robust calendar of professional development opportunities for 2021. NCGE will offer short webinars on a wide variety of topics and will offer longer seminars to provide more in depth professional development. NCGE will also offer an educational travel opportunity through the Geo-Camp Iceland program – pending, of course, the status of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to providing professional development throughout the year, NCGE is building an online Resource Library. As I write, NCGE’s “geo-librarians” are hard at work collecting teacher-developed, classroom-tested activities and lessons. The database-driven library will provide geography educators with the ability to search and download materials that peers have found useful in their classrooms, both in-person and virtually. I encourage you to visit the NCGE Resource Library submission webpage for details on how you can share your classroom resources with colleagues across the country and around the world. Look for the Resource Library to open in the first quarter of 2021.

I conclude by restating NCGE’s core beliefs:

  • Geography education is a bridge to better understanding and appreciation of all subject matter.
  • Geography education engages students in global events and processes, giving them tools to become effective citizens and decision makers.
  • Educators should be treated with the respect they deserve as the professionals they are.
  • All educators are bearers of valuable expertise that can help, inform and guide the work of the NCGE.
  • NCGE plays a valuable role in providing educators with the ability/opportunity to share geographic knowledge with one another, with the aim towards improving teaching practice and student engagement with geography.
  • All students and educators must have access to high quality, relevant materials, up to date technology and engaging learning experiences for teaching geography.

As your president, I pledge to uphold these beliefs with grit and the urgency of now.